Tennessee lawmaker calls for alternative funding for roads

| Thursday, November 02, 2006

In search of alternative ways to fund transportation projects in Tennessee, a leading state lawmaker is drafting measures that would set up a special commission to oversee toll routes and public-private road partnerships.

House Transportation Committee Chair Phillip Pinion, D-Union City, said all alternative funding methods need to be on the table.

According to the state's long-range transportation plan, the Tennessee Department of Transportation will face funding deficits by 2008 and an accumulated shortfall of $2 billion by 2015.

Agency officials have said adding toll roads, public-private partnerships, indexing the fuel tax or setting up a state infrastructure bank would help the state foot the bill for roadwork. The state infrastructure bank would involve pooling money and loaning it for transportation projects, the Chattanooga Times Free Press reported.

Not all state legislators are onboard with the idea of a commission looking specifically at toll roads or public-private partnerships.

Rep. Eric Watson, R-Cleveland, said surplus money could be used for transportation projects.

"I don't think we need more taxes or tolls and burden the people, especially when we have a surplus," Watson told The Associated Press.

Any toll road or public-private partnership would need to be approved by state lawmakers and the governor.

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